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Let's see… reform the Senate or beat Ken Kowalski? The Missing Link reappears

Link Byfield

After a short period of relative silence, Alberta's Missing Link has resurfaced. Link Byfield, that is.

Byfield, an icon of the post-Conservative right out here in the New West, is seeking the Wildrose Alliance’s nomination for MLA in the rural riding of Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock. He shouldn't have any trouble getting it.

Byfield is the former publisher of the now defunct Alberta Report magazine, the loopy monthly panegyric to the towering twin True Faiths of God and the Market founded by his father Ted Byfield in 1973. It folded in 2003, presumably because there was an insufficient market for its market-fundamentalist bromides.

Whatever you may make of Byfield's economic and religious views, you have to give the man credit for a certain intellectual consistency and the courage of his radical convictions. For example, he seems to have his doubts about that market-distorting war on drugs (though he blames "utopian proto-feminists" for its beginnings), thinks marriage should be handed back to the church and believes state-run education was the ruination of the family.

Be that as it may, Byfield is nowadays variously described as conservative newspaper columnist (true in the sense that out here in Western Canada, the term "conservative" is often used to describe "fundamentalist radical"), president of the Society to Explore and Record Christian History (true according to the Wikipedia, although one would have thought this field had been pretty well tilled by now), and one of Alberta's three remaining "Senators in Waiting."

The latter position, dating to a brainstorm experienced by then-premier Ralph Klein in 2004 as a way to keep on side those many Albertans dedicated to the proposition that a "Triple-E Senate" should be foisted upon a skeptical Canada, has amounted to non-Senator Byfield's principal claim to fame in the eyes of the general public.

The cunning Klein knew perfectly well that no one was going to fall for the idea of an Elected Senate that gave Prince Edward Island Effective power Equal to that of Quebec and Ontario, or for that matter Saskatchewan. But he wasted a few taxpayers' dollars on this nonsensical vote anyway in the name of popular political entertainment.

There were to be four members on Alberta's senatorial wait staff, and in 2007 Tea Party Prime Minister Stephen Harper actually appointed one of them, Calgary-area farmer Bert Brown, before getting back to his Project for a New American Canada. (Harper’s PNAC should not be confused with the similarly named Project for a New American Century, of which it is arguably a part. Nor is the Triple-E Senate to be confused with the manufacturer of Triple-E recreational vehicles, which are very popular in all parts of Canada.)

By then everyone -- including Klein, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, Prime Minister Harper and the other two remaining Senators in Waiting -- was completely bored with the silly idea. Except for Byfield, that is, who continued to dedicate his rhetorical powers to the Triple-Edification of Canada.

Now, astonishingly, even Byfield appears to have given up on this lost cause and exchanged it for another equally hopeless passion, to wit, defeating Alberta Speaker Ken Kowalski, the province’s longest-serving and most secure Conservative MLA, in the next Alberta general election.

Both weekly newspapers in the Edmonton-area suburban city of St. Albert have now reported that Byfield is seeking the Wildrose Alliance nomination in Kowalski's riding. Speaking from his rural redoubt in the delightfully named hamlet of Riviere Qui Barre a few kilometres northwest of St. Albert, Byfield told the weekly Saint City News: "I'm running against Stelmach. I’m not running against anyone else."

Alas for Byfield, that's not the way our Canadian Parliamentary system works, although we should never be surprised if supporters of the various Western "reform" movements fail to understand this. In the case of Byfield, of course, he knows perfectly well who he will be running against, it's just that it is generally assumed by political pundits hereabouts that on his own Kowalski could only be blown out of his riding with an atomic bomb.

Talk about tilting at windmills! Byfield has exchanged the most hopeless cause in the federal jurisdiction for the most hopeless electoral crusade in Alberta. To put this another way, if Byfield can succeed in unseating Kowalski, a 30-year veteran of the Alberta Legislature who is still going strong, flying pigs will be waiting down the road at Villeneuve Airport to carry him to Ottawa and his seat in the Senate.

Back in Ted Byfield's heyday, when young Link was barely out of his teens, Alberta Report was known as St. John's Edmonton Report. It was named, we assume, for the patron saint of printers and publications.

As a scholar of Christianity, though, Byfield will appreciate that his current political efforts are more likely to be watched over by St. Jude the Apostle -- patron saint of lost causes.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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